What do Barry Bonds and Medicare have in common?

I like to consider myself a true and patriotic American, but I have a confession to make:  I hate baseball.  Yes, I know it’s the quintessential American sport, right up there in Americana with Mom and apple pie.  But I still hate it.  I find it boring and surprisingly non-athletic.  It’s such a static game.  The guys run bases periodically, but mostly they just stand around.  Oh, and they hit balls.  And of course, they spit.

I’ll concede that the ball hitting part is a real skill.  With a surprisingly small stick, baseball players manage to whack away with great precision at a small, incredibly fast moving ball.  That’s impressive . . . but still boring.  Kind of like darts, which is fun to play (especially if you’re a little beer lubricated, but really not that exciting to watch).

Here’s something I learned from Barry Bonds, though:  the bigger your muscles, the harder you can hit that little ball, and the further and faster that ball then travels.  That fast and far travel means either that (a) the ball goes right out of the park or (b) nobody can catch it within the park.

Bonds’ problem when he began his baseball career was that he wasn’t born with those muscles.  He had to create them artificially.  Enter steroids.  With steroids on his side, and a strong natural and honed talent for hitting balls with frequency and precision, Bonds became a bulging behemoth who could effortlessly hit balls further and faster than anyone else.

Forget about all the icky little side effects that come with steroids, such as shrunken testicles, damaged joints, pustule covered skin, and surging anger, not to mention the whole law-breaking thing.  Bonds was hitting the big time, becoming a baseball hero and one of the most famous men in the world.

When the Bonds story first broke, I asked myself one question:  Why shouldn’t players in a commercial enterprise be allowed to do anything they want to become the best?  After all, the downsides of steroids are centered on the individual himself.  The individual is the one who makes the Faustian bargain:  In exchange for destroying his health, he has a brief moment as a superb baseball player.  Isn’t that a private bargain, that isn’t anyone else’s business?

In fact, though, it is also other people’s business, since it affects the other baseball players.  Those players who take steroids distort the market.  The up and coming player no longer needs to have only innate talent and an enormous work ethic.  Instead, to compete in this distorted market, he too needs to be willing to destroy himself.

One could argue that the market place will adjust:  ultimately, America would end up with two leagues, one filled with weird, steroid bulging, slow-moving hard hitters, and one filled with “all natural” players, lithe and quick.  Those who wish to poison themselves can, those who don’t want to won’t.

The specter of grotesqueries, however, not to mention the fear of legions of young men hitting the steroids to going into the steroid league (and that’s just what we need — teenagers on steroids), meant that we, as a society, decided that we didn’t want to go down that road.  Instead, the Major League Baseball machine, law enforcement, and public opinion all agitated against the distortion of the current baseball market that Bonds and his ilk represented.

Right now, I imagine many of you saying, “Fine, you’ve insulted baseball left, right and center.  You also maundered on about steroids and the free market.  But what does this have to do with health care?”  My answer:  “This whole baseball riff is a perfect illustration of the problem with government interference in the health care market.”

In the context of health care, government money is the functional equivalent of steroids.  The huge, bumbling, slow moving, inefficient, corruption-prone government behemoth places huge chunks of money into the market and, just as Barry Bonds’ distorted normal baseball, so too does Medicare (and Medicaid and ObamaCare) distort the normal market.  I’ll let the Center for Freedom and Prosperity Foundation explain:

I think the video is remarkably clear but, if it’s not, just think of the way in which Barry Bonds, by tossing steroids into the baseball mix, perverted and potentially destroyed baseball.  The same holds true for a system that has clunky government rules, combined with third party money that diminishes anyone’s interest in honesty and efficiency.

The Bookworm Turns : A Secret Conservative in Liberal Land, available in e-format for $4.99 at Amazon, Smashwords or through your iBook app.

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  • SADIE

    Your posts bear no resemblance to mine in terms of empirical support.
     
    That quip has got to be one of the most snottiest and smelly comments I have ever read in this room.
     
    My dear sweet dad (Bless his heart and memory) had a wonderful expression about a neighbor, who felt it was their duty to pontificate with authority on a variety of topics.
     
    “She thinks her sh%# doesn’t stink, but her farts give her away”

  • Mike Devx

    Oh, to respond, or not to respond?  That is the question!  I honestly have no idea whether I should let the oh so very smug accusations of my ignorance and reflexive knee-jerking stand.  I’m choosing, Not.  I’ll let all his scurrilous defmations, his misrepresentations of my deep love and respect for my fellow countrymen, stand as the BS I call it.

  • Charles Martel

    SADIE, at Hahvahd they are called fahts.

  • Mike Devx

    Moose: Gotta go back to my cave and club my mate. Sorry I can’t continue.

    Once you’ve thoroughly beaten that recalcitrant mate back into line… Come back soon!  We’ll miss you while you’re gone!

  • SADIE

    Pahdon me, Charles Martel ;)

  • abc

    Wow.  Looks like the truth hurts, since I obviously touched a nerve.  The ad hominem arguments are out in full force.  Defensive mechanisms, I guess.

    Moose, for the record, please cite the facts that show increasing levels of government regulation of the health care industry and price controls in the US.  I’d love to see data rather than unsupported assertions from you, for once.

    BrianE, among the many right reasons to become a doctor is putting your patients interests ahead of your own.  Doctors that charge more but have inferior outcomes, which my brother and father do not, would not qualify.  As for my moral philosophy, that would take more space than this blog allows.

    I’m still waiting for a fact-based discussion, instead of unsupported conclusions posing as facts.  That is what is advertised at this blog, but I’m still waiting for it to manifest in reality rather than just in rhetoric.  How long are you guys going to make me wait??  Insult me personally all you want, or call Harvard names.  It doesn’t change the fact that you haven’t rebutted the facts yet.  I’ll be waiting and watching to see whether you do, or whether you continue to play rhetorical games to hide the fact that you haven’t. 

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    Y, the source I cited, Atul Gawande, is not employed by the government.  Stop making stuff up.

    I never mentioned Atul Gawande. Is that person somehow relevant here?

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    A thinks that what comes through here, are ad hominem attacks? He’s got to be kidding us.

    It’s almost certain A’s idea of what jingoism means is as erroneous as his idea of what ad hominem means.

    Regardless, healthcare should not be placed in the irresponsible hands of A, Obama, the government, or any of their allies.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    I’m still waiting for a fact-based discussion, instead of unsupported conclusions posing as facts.

    So basically you concluded that I was “making things up” based upon your unsupported factual-conclusion. Since I never claimed Atul Gawande was employed by the government, your fact must necessarily be non-factual.

    So when are you going to follow your own preachings, preacher man?

  • abc

    Y, stop spinning.  You wrote:  “The experts just work for the government and it is government bureaucrats and politicians that actually implement and conduct the policies that utilize such “expertise”.”

    I sourced an expert on health care economics who doesn’t work for the government, and there are many more that argue what Gawande does (e.g., Gruber at MIT).  It is tough to have an intelligent discussion with someone who doesn’t mean what he says.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    What makes you think I was replying with your comments in mind? Do you have unknown telepathic powers that the government has forgotten to regulate, A…

    Who is really spinning their webs of deceit here?

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    I said experts, but never mentioned a specific person. You don’t even know if I consider your experts to be what I would call experts either. Are you utilizing unregulated and untaxed psychic super powers once more?

    I don’t know which narcissistic world you think you are the king of, but in this world, what people are thinking don’t get dictated to by those like you.

  • abc

    Y, please cite a single expert on the subject.